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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Exclusive Hun Sen’s dirty jobs

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Exclusive Hun Sen’s dirty jobs

Comments recorded by Sylvaine Pasquier
L’Express (France)
Translated from French by M. Preuk

Heng Pov was one of the police chiefs [of the city] of Phnom Penh, he was a key witness but also played an active role in the exactions made by the Prime Minister and his regime. Today Heng Pov is on the run, he provides [here] his exclusive testimony.

Yesterday, he was secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Interior and advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Heng Pov was relieved of all his duties at the end of July. Accused of various crimes, he is in hiding overseas, and he is also under a red notice alert broadcasted by Interpol at the demand of [the] Phnom Penh [regime]. The Cambodian authorities never deployed such aggressiveness towards the backers of political assassinations nor the killers on their payroll. Having occupied key positions, such as Phnom Penh police chief, Heng Pov knows the inside of the regime, and most of all, the secrets hidden behind closed doors. In this exclusive interview, he allows us a small peek behind the curtain hiding a universe of violence and mafia-like complicity in which he was one the player. Can he accuse his former peers without incriminating himself? Heng Pov is a time bomb for the Hun Sen regime. Can the regime avoid the shockwave?

Did you run away from Cambodia knowing that you would be charged?

I left the country legally last July 23, with an authorization for the Ministry of Interior, for medical care of my amputated leg. Five days later, some friends called me from Cambodia, warning me not to go back: Prime Minister Hun Sen and Hok Lundy, the national police chief, learnt about my contacts with the opposition and reprisals are expected [to be forthcoming]. They have fabricated entirely an accusation file against me – a process which was routinely used to throw the opponents [of the regime] behind bars. Currently, members of my family are detained at home, and they are kept in the dark. They are even prevented from going out to get food. The Prime Minister wants to catch me at all cost because I know too much about the crimes and corruption of the regime. If I am arrested and sent back to Cambodia, my life will be in danger. Once my security is assured, I will be ready to testify in order to clarify the international community on the practices of the Cambodian regime.

What are you referring to?

In 1995, Hun Sen wanted to put to an end all demonstrations demanding for democracy. To do that, he organized a meeting at his home in Tuol Krasaing, where Hok Lundy participated. The latter asked me to participate also. I know he was present and I have proof of what was said there. Grenades were thrown at the Son Sann [a former Prime Minister] party. I can tell you where these grenades came from and who threw them: they were men under Mok Chito who is nowadays at the head of the criminal police at the Ministry of Interior. In March of 1997, the same method was used against the partisans of Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader, who were gathering in front of the National Assembly. I just arrived at the spot for a few minutes when the explosions started. Suddenly, I saw 4 people running toward the residence of the Prime Minister.

Who were they?

I followed them, and I recognized two officers from Hun Sen’s guard [unit]. Shortly after, I informed General Hoy Piseth of my discovery, he was the commander of this [guard] unit. “Stay still and don’t talk about it to anybody,” he told me. But, I was angry and I told these facts to Hok Lundy who had the same reaction as Hoy Piseth. In 2003, one of those whom I identified during the grenade attack confessed to me that he was indeed one of the grenade launcher. “I obeyed the orders from Hun Sen,” the man added. There is still a recording of this conversation.

Were you informed beforehand of the July 1997 coup d’état?

Before this event, in April, about 7 tons of cannabis [marijuana] were ceased at the Sihanoukville port. The anti-drug trafficking office which I directed, discovered this illegal cargo in two containers shipped to Norway, and belonging to the Mong Reththy group – a businessman close to the Prime Minister. Ho Sok, the state secretary of the [Ministry of] Interior belonging to the royalist [Funcinpec] party, immediately asked for the arrest of Mong Reththy. Hun Sen was furious. Knowing that I was invited shortly thereafter to a seminar in Canada on anti-narcotic fight, the Prime Minister summoned me. “Do you know who is implicated in this [cannabis] traffic?” I replied: “Mong Reththy and some people in your entourage.” Hok Lundy, General Sao Sokha, then the deputy chief of the national police, or General Dom Hak, the leader of the land military army.

How did Hun Sen reacted?

He told me that I cannot go to Canada. Instead, he wanted me to organize a press conference to exonerate Mong Reththy. His orders were to falsify the documents in such a way as to implicate the royalist [Funcinpec] Chao Sokhon as being the culprit. Chao Sokhon was a police officer who was arrested and sent to jail. Freed two years later, he received some financial compensation. Thus Hun Sen put the blame on the royalist [Funcinpec] camp. However, Ho Sok knew that Mong Reththy was the culprit.

Was it why he (Ho Sok) was killed?

Exactly. Taking advantage of the coup d’état which Hun Sen perpetrated with the help of Hok Lundy, and Generals Hoy Piseth and Sao Sokha, as well as Neth Savoeun, his nephew through alliance, who was leading the Phnom Penh municipal police [force]. During the operation, the Prime Minister arranged to leave for Vietnam, but, he was in contact in permanence through satellite telephone with Hok Lundy whom Hun Sen entrusted the leadership. Turned away from the Singapore embassy where he went to look for protection, Ho Sok was arrested and brought to an office at the Ministry of Interior where Hok Lundy asked me to go to. On the spot, I saw six bodyguards belonging to the chief of the police who arrived there before me. They shot Ho Sok in front of my eyes. One of them whom I know well, emptied a whole magazine of AK-47 bullets on Ho Sok. I took him aside: “Why did you kill him? – I don’t know anything, Hok Lundy gave the order to do so, ask him yourself.” That was what I did. “It was necessary, Hok Lundy said, if not Ho Sok would have created problems.” The main worry of the police chief was for me to recover a car from a royalist official on the run: he wanted the car to give as a gift to the most zealous of the killers.

Is this the way the system [regime] operates?

When Hun Sen demanded that I falsified the documents regarding the seized cannabis, he warned me that Mong Reththy would give me a car, a Toyota Land Cruiser. My [official] duty landed me [only] a used Hillux pickup. Whoever executes the crime is a full partner of the system. To buy his silence, he is offered money or a car.

What do you know about the murder of actress Piseth Pilika in 1999?

I was in charge of the investigation as the deputy criminal police chief. I thus discovered that she first had an affair with Hok Lundy who later on presented her to Hun Sen. But Bun Rany, the wife of the Prime Minister, discovered her husband’s affair with the star. She accused Hok Lundy of acting as the go-between. The latter went to see her to make peace, to tell her that it was just a fling … However, I learnt through my investigation that he promised [Bun Rany] to separate Piseth Pilika from Hun Sen. Those who shot the actress were the same killers of Ho Sok. I questioned them and I recorded their testimonies.

You were the Phnom Penh police chief in 2004 when the unionist Chea Vichea was shot. Are the real culprits behind bars?

It was necessary to have a rigorous and transparent investigation, it was what I asked for, whereas the human rights organizations and the international community emphasized their pressure on the authorities. A few days after the murder, I was summoned to go to Hok Lundy’s home. Two generals were present there: Sok Phall and Chay Sinarith. Immediately, he (Hok Lundy) announced to me that the killers were identified and arrested! Based on a simple denunciation made by the Tuol Kork district police … It did not take me long to understand that the two suspects, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, had nothing to do with the murder. During the questioning, Hok Lundy called me, demanding that I went to his home to pick up a gun which he affirmed to be the crime weapon. He claimed that a police officer under the order of General Chay Synarith brought it over to him, and that it belonged to one of the suspect. I then thought of the royalist [Funcinpec] MP Om Radsady who was shot in 2003 in the middle of the street, just like Chea Vichea. I was convinced that the two crimes were organized by the same people. The methods used [in the killing] and the gun – which came from Hok Lundy – are identical.

Did you personally receive the order for murder?

In 2005, Hok Lundy asked me to kill Nuth Saan, secretary of state at the [Ministry of] Interior, with whom he had a conflict regarding a state-owned land and used by the Siem Reap police. Nuth Saan decided to sell it to hotel investors. Hok Lundy was furious about it, it was because the secretary of state took the decision without asking for his approval, and not because Nuth Saan was squandering public properties for his own benefit. Hok Lundy wanted to let everyone know that it is him who is in charge and nobody else. To tell Hok Lundy that I declined to act against the law would expose myself to the same fate as Nuth Saan. I dreamed up an excuse. Several times, I skirted his orders. In December 2005, at a meeting of police officers and commune leaders at the municipality of Phnom Penh, Hok Lundy took it out openly against me. He then ordered the arrest of several of my collaborators.

Can one remain upright in this system?

On several occasions, I gave information to human rights organizations and to the opposition – I was looking for somebody who can publicly divulge them. There is no doubt that I turned a blind eye on the corruption which Hun Sen claims to fight against, but that in fact, he is one of the main beneficiary. The sale of public properties such as the Phnom Penh police headquarter brought in for him, for example, 2 million dollars, Hok Lundy raked in $800,000 … The Prime Minister plays a dangerous game for the country. I am convinced that there will not be democracy in Cambodia as long as the opposition parties cannot succeed in uniting themselves against the current regime. As for the accusations leveled against me, I am ready to answer them in front of a tribunal, under the condition that it is not done either in Cambodia or Vietnam. In these places, there is no justice.


Who’s Who

By Sylvaine Pasquier

Hok Lundy (1950-): One of the strongmen of the regime, at the head of the national police since 1994. He is linked to Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister, since 1979, whom he met in Vietnam. His son, Hok Lundao, married Hun Chanthah, Hun Sen’s niece, in 1998. He divorced her about a year and a half ago. Hok Chindavy, Hok Lundy’s daughter, is married to one of Hun Sen’s son, Hun Manit.

Ho Sok (1958-1997): Colonel, he was a member of the royalist military faction at the beginning of 1990, He was nominated secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior in 1995. Openly criticizing the corruption and drug trafficking, he was one of the first target during the 1997 coup d’état organized by Hun Sen. It was the only murder of an opponent acknowledged by the regime. The culprits have never been arrested.

Chea Vichea (1968-2004): President of the Free Trade Union of workers of the kingdom of Cambodia, he was by far the most active unionist in the textile industry, the main industry in Cambodia. He was shot and killed in the middle of the street on the morning of January 22, 2004 by unknown killers. Serious doubts remain on the culpability of two suspects accused of the murder and who are condemned to 25-year jail term each during a sham trial.

Piseth Pilika (1965-1999): Royal Ballet dancer and beloved Cambodian star. She had an affair with Prime Minister Hun Sen, which resulted in her being mortally wounded in 1999 near a market in Phnom Penh, by a killer who took off without worry. She died seven days later from her wounds. More than 10,000 people participated to her funeral.

Sam Rainsy (1949-): Former Finance Minister (1993-1994), nowadays, opposition leader, he founded the Khmer Nation Party in 1995, which was renamed Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in 1998. A virulent critic of the regime and threatened with arrest several times, he was condemned in absentia to 18-month jail term for defamation in December 2005, he was later pardoned by the king.

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